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The WHO Classification of Tumours provides the international standards for the classification and diagnosis of tumours. It enables direct comparisons to be made between different countries. In the new fifth edition, the series has gone digital with the launch of a website as well as a series of books, known widely as the WHO Blue Books. The first volume to be produced is on the classification of Digestive System tumours, replacing the successful 2010 version. It has been rewritten and updated accordingly. This article summarises the major diagnostic innovations that have occurred over the last decade and that have now been incorporated in the classification. As an example, it incorporates the recently proposed classification of neuroendocrine tumours, based on the recognition that neuroendocrine tumours and carcinomas differ substantially in the genetic abnormalities that drive their growth, findings relevant to treatment selection and outcome prediction. Several themes have emerged during the production process. One is the importance of the progression from hyperplasia to dysplasia to carcinoma in the evolution of the malignant process. Advances in imaging techniques and endoscopy have resulted in enhanced access to precancerous lesions in the gastrointestinal and biliary tract, necessitating both changes in classification schema and clinical practice. Diagnosis of tumours is no longer the sole purview of pathologists, and some patients now receive treatment before tissue is obtained, based on clinical, radiological and liquid biopsy results. This makes the classification relevant to many disciplines involved in the care of patients with tumours of the digestive system. © 2020 UICC.


Mary Kay Washington, Richard M Goldberg, George J Chang, Paul Limburg, Alfred K Lam, Manuel Salto-Tellez, Mark J Arends, Iris D Nagtegaal, David S Klimstra, Massimo Rugge, Peter Schirmacher, Alexander J Lazar, Robert D Odze, Fatima Carneiro, Masashi Fukayama, Ian A Cree, WHO Classification of Tumours Editorial Board. Diagnosis of digestive system tumours. International journal of cancer. 2021 Mar 01;148(5):1040-1050

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PMID: 32674220

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